The Updated Holiday Survival Guide

We’re just a couple weeks away until we get to enjoy the company of family and friends for Thanksgiving. Even better is the fact that most of us have multiple families to go visit, which means we have multiple meals to feast on. It’s the best when everyone in the family brings their A-game to the table to make some sort of dish or desert. Yep, it’s THE BEST!

So how do you get to enjoy these dishes guilt-free?

How is it possible to go through Thanksgiving and not dread gaining weight or ruining your current goals?

Well, you ultimately have to do something different than what you’ve been doing. If you’ve gained an absurd amount of weight over the past Thanksgivings and other holidays, there’s probably a reason for it. In wiser words: if you want to change something, you have to change something.

For starters, you have to make something healthy, of course…

A couple years ago I tried to “Wow” my family and I whipped up a sweet potato crock pot dish with some cranberry sauce and sweet chili peppers (with a little help from the girlfriend). It turned out alright, but the show was stolen by my cousin’s veggie tray (save the dip).

veggietray

Just kidding.

But seriously, the veggie tray was a HIT! It was so much of a hit, in fact, that I did have her bring another one during Christmas as well. We still talk about that veggie tray to this day.

Often times, a healthy dish is neglected by the plethora of pies, cookies, and other deserts that family members bring. I remember the year following my sweet potato dish I decided to go the desert route and made a peanut butter cheesecake pie (again, with a lot of the girlfriend’s help).

Wait, a peanut butter cheesecake pie isn’t healthy…but it’s got peanut butter. And I used all-natural peanut butter, so it was definitely, healthy, right?

Sheeesh! It’s like if something is gluten-free it’s the best thing for you. That’s false and hardly the truth. Check out this article from Nerd Fitness to figure out more about gluten: What the Hell is Gluten?

And here’s a really great reference pic you can use to help you shop better and healthier:

IMG_1748

Before I get anymore sidetracked on my tangent here, I better get back to the point.

First and foremost, do NOT be the “guy or gal that brings broccoli and tilapia to a wedding (holiday, in this case)”. I have loved that line since Joe Donnelly used it in one of his posts awhile back.   There’s no reason to be that person unless you are in the midst of an extreme competition of somewhat. That may be the only exception.

If you want to eat healthier, you have to choose healthier, but that’s extremely hard on most Thanksgiving tables.

So I’ll ask again: How do you enjoy these holiday meals guilt-free?

I already covered some basics behind the alcohol consumption that takes place over the holidays. If you missed that post, make sure to check it out here.

We can consider it like a Holiday Survival Guide of sorts.

survivalguide

To enjoy holiday meals guilt-free is to plan ahead.

Yep! It’s that simple. You have to plan ahead.

These are my points for planning ahead:

  • Make sure you work out that day. Like an extra set, extra 10 minutes of intervals, and an extra rep type of hard. There’s a reason why this is my first point. Hit all your muscle groups by training total body with maybe some extra emphasis on the lower body muscles. The bigger the lifts the better, but don’t overdo it. If you’re program consists of split or body building routines, make this day your heavy lower day or leg day, respectively. If you’re training total body, work in supersets (two exercises at once). I recommend two types of supersets:
  1. Lower Body/Upper Body Supersets (i.e. squats and rows, squats and pull-ups, deadlifts and shoulder press, or deadlifts and push-ups, etc.)
  2. Push/Pull Exercise w/a Metabolic Exercise (i.e. squat and jump rope or squat and battle rope, pull-ups and med ball slams, push-ups and sled pushes, deadlifts and burpees, etc.)

This workout should be done as close as possible to the meal or MEALS that you’ll be having on that day. For most people, this is usually done in the morning because there is plenty of travel and preparation going on throughout the day. I would love to say that I see a ton of people in the gym on these mornings, but that is not the case. There are usually just a couple of people in there. Too many people consider this a “free” day, like so many seem to do on the weekends, and that is a big mistake. Oh yeah, and add a metabolic finisher like some intervals or tabata training. A simple finisher could be something like this:

Speed Squats

Push-ups

Jumping Jacks

Speed Skips

*20 seconds of each exercise, rest for 10 seconds in between each exercise. Do for 4 minutes time (2 sets of each exercise) and rest for 2 minutes. Repeat once more*

  • If you are dieting, make this day your re-feed day. I’m not going to go into much detail on what re-feed days are. Let’s say if you are dieting or going through an extreme fat loss phase in your program, you need certain days to exceed your typical caloric intake by 2-3x. These days should happen every 7-10 days or so. By planning ahead, you can make the holiday your re-feed day, rather than your Saturday. Oh, and just a reminder, you have to work out this day too J.

 

  • Have a whey protein shake about 45 minutes before the meal. Consuming a protein shake of about 25 g for females and 40 g for males before a meal will help with satiety. It will literally make you feel full. If you are full, you will eat less (about 99% of the time, anyway).   You can thank the hormone “ghrelin” for this.

 

  • Eat veggies and protein first, and eat plenty of them. Eating your veggies will also help make you feel full because of all the fiber and slow digesting carbs. As I said in 3), protein will also help with this, but now you are eating whole-food protein which will help even more.

 

  • Have a little bit of everything. And by everything, I mean EVERYTHING. We want to try all the good stuff that’s on the table. So instead of having plate after plate after plate, with each trip consisting of you loading full helpings of each food, make the portion smaller and enjoy it all (INCLUDING THE VEGGIES!!!!).

 

  • Be happy and ENJOY the feast and company. I have plenty of clients who feel terrible after the holidays because of all the food and alcohol they have consumed. A lot of them act like it’s the only day out of the year that they’ve done such a thing…Without going on any further, enjoy the football, enjoy the family and friends, and enjoy the food. In other words: Enjoy the F,F,&F..andF.

Alright. There you have it. It’s a holiday survival guide. Use these tips to help get you through the holiday feasts and to help the pursuit in accomplishing your goals!

Happy feasting (and exercising)!

The Secrets to Long-term Success: Short-term Goals

This post is one that goes into more detail on how and why short-term goals matter more than long-term goals. I briefly went over this topic in one of the article’s in October 4th’s Newsletter, but I wanted to cover it more thoroughly here. I’ll begin this post using that same article:

You’ve most likely heard this before: a dream is a goal without a deadline.

That means once you have the deadline, it’s time to take action. To create your plan to accomplish your goal, you can use the S.M.A.R.T. approach:

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Time

You can use other approaches to accomplish your goals, regardless of which type of philosophy on how to achieve your goal, you still need to have short-term AND long-term goals.

Short-term goals keep you motivated and accountable. These are your “check-ins.” This is the category of goals where you initially force yourself to make changes towards your goal. These are the goals where every choice brings you closer to accomplishing your long-term goal or takes you further away. These are the choices, or behaviors, and sacrifices we make. It’s tough, but that’s because it’s supposed to be!

Long-term goals are the outcome goals. They are the “X” at the end of the map. They are the accumulation of all your short-term goals. They are the prize. Long-term goals are what initially brought out your motivation and at the end of the day it could be what keeps you going.

The troubling part is that people are too focused on the long-term goal that they miss steps along the way. They go from “A” to “C” or “D” without ever stopping and accomplishing “B.”

Weight loss is an easy and relevant example to use because it’s so common. Here’s what the initial steps could look like:

A: Establish “why” you want to lose X lbs or use the S.M.A.R.T. method (or do both)

B: Increase exercise frequency (like walking for 30 minutes 3x/week)

C: Eat more fruits and veggies

D: Sleep at least 6 hours every night

So what happens if you go from A to D? You obviously skipped a step, or multiple steps along the way. And then you have a slip like a stressful event due to work or a family member or a loved one. All of a sudden you’re not working as hard towards your goal because there was something that came up.  Without established groundwork, you’re now back to where you started (step A), rather than being caught up on step B or C.

Array of colourful alphabet letters in uppercase on a white background for teaching children languages

(For the record, remember that LIFE ALWAYS HAPPENS!! So prepare the right way instead of the fast way!)

This brings me back to the question: what do you do when something comes up that deters you from your goals?

If you took the time to create the short-term goals then you will have fundamental groundwork in how to accomplish your goal. You will know what you need to do to make your dreams a reality. It may feel like you’re starting “fresh” if you have a setback, but your body and heart know how to get things done, it’s that darn mind of yours that shakes things up.

You know what you need to do. You know you need to add exercise that consists of resistance training in order to achieve sustainable weight loss. You know you need to stop eating more. You know you need to eat more fruits and veggies. You know you shouldn’t be going out to eat more than once or twice each week.
If your goal is weight loss (let’s say your goal is to lose 100 lbs) you become so focused on losing 100 lbs that you miss a couple steps along the way like food prep, consistent exercise, and not eating processed food like chips every day.  Maybe you also didn’t establish that you need to lose 10 lbs before you lose 100 lbs, and a goal of 10 lbs/month for the first 2 months is a realistic goal to have.

8 week​​s later you’re down 20 lbs, but then work gets crazy busy and now you can’t make it to your walks as much and all of a sudden you gain the 20 lbs back in 5 weeks.  You didn’t just gain 5 back, or 10 back, you gained it ALL back.

​​You gained it all back because you never set up all the short-term goals like meal prepping on Sundays or weight training 3x/week or choosing berries over chips.  Setting up those goals could have helped you still lose weight and accomplish your goal while things at work got tough.  (There are obviously a ton of other scenarios and options that could occur.)

missedstep

The point is, when times get tough, recollect on how you got to where you were in the first place.  It’s always been a long-term approach, but we tend to think in quick-fixes.  Quick-fixed do NOT work.

The reasons above are the exact reasons why the quick-fix supplement companies that get you to do a “30 day Challenge” don’t last because you don’t form any GOOD habits.  ​​You just drink a bunch of their shakes, slap on a patch, or take some fat-burners that are supposed to help you lose weight, yet you continue to eat chips, NOT meal prep, and couldn’t fathom exercising. There are exceptions of course, but there’s also a reason why “fat loss supplements” are part of a multi-billion dollar industry.

Another example of preparing for a fitness-related goal could be training for a marathon.​​​​  You don’t start training for a marathon by running 25 miles for your first training session. You start by knocking out shorter mileage sessions while working on your cadence, pace, and gait. Then you progress to longer runs once or twice a week. Eventually you’ll add hill interval days, cross-training days, and much more! Failure to do these small steps will most likely lead to over-training, injury, and a poor marathon time.

Remember to focus on the short-term goals as you keep your eyes on the long-term. Focusing only on the long-term goal neglects all of the essential building-blocks necessary to get you there safely and correctly.

Remember: short-term goals are achieved with your long-term goals in mind.

Osteoporosis: Preventative Care (Add-On)

As mentioned in our previous blog post on the subject of osteoporosis, as we age, our bones can become weak and brittle without the proper care.  This could lead us down a road of surgeries and joint replacements.  With proper, preventative care, however, we can help battle the surgery solution by working on a few select procedures.

One of those preventative tips is to practice proper form when exercising.  I went into detail on how to squat correctly in the previous post linked above.  Form is key.

Form is also relative to more than just when you’re exercising, it’s essential during every day movement patterns like when you’re picking up something off the floor, walking up or down stairs, or chasing kids and grandkids.

Not only does muscle strength come into play, but balance, coordination, and control all play huge factors into keeping you safe.

Working on not one, but all of those aspects will help prevent future injuries and potential joint replacements.  Some of the joint replacement products, like the Zimmer Persona Knee Replacement, can even lead to future replacements and pain and money.

If you work on your preventative care instead of waiting for the worst to happen, you’ll be a step ahead of the game and potentially save you thousands and thousands of dollars in hospital bills.  Nothing will ever replace the joints we were born with.  Practice preventative care by means of working on form, balance, coordination, and control to help improve functional movement and prevent injury!

Osteoporosis: Build Strong Bones & Prevent Knee Pain

Safety is always a major concern for anyone and everyone. Whether it’s at work, at home, or simply out and about, we should always consider safety as a legitimate practice. This is especially true for the mature adult and that’s because of an invisible, underlying health issue known as osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is the thinning of bones as they become weak and brittle. As the human body ages, it becomes particularly susceptible to this disease. White and Asian women are particularly at high risk, especially women older women who are past menopause, but men are also affected, according to Mayo Clinic.

The American Recall Center states that 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men will fracture a bone because of osteoporosis.

Here’s a poster from the American Recall Center in regards to last month being Osteoporosis Awareness& Prevention Month.

Osteoporosis_Infographic

While there’s a lot of research out there pertaining to downside of the disease, there’s also plenty of research that shows us what we can do to prevent and battle this invisible monster.

There are some supplements available to you to increase bone density. Calcium and vitamin D, for example, are fantastic supplements that will increase bone density. You can also up your calcium intake by consuming more dairy products and/or by consuming almond, coconut, or cashew milk as they have about 50% more calcium per serving than most dairy milks.

One quick note: if you are a big-time caffeine consumer (I love me some coffee), then you might want to be careful of how much you’re consuming because caffeine has been shown to accelerate bone loss in people who don’t consume enough calcium, according to a study.

I would argue that the most sustainable and effective way to improve your bone density is through strength training.

Strength training (and exercising in general) is an excellent defender of osteoporosis and should become a priority in one’s lifestyle. One of the major benefits of strength training is increasing bone density, which will improve bone strength and durability. The best things about strength training and other forms of exercise is that it’s inexpensive and it literally makes you feel better! You also don’t need a physician’s referral to start exercising. You can literally walk into a gym right now and begin to improve your bone density by running through some exercises.

The best exercises for increasing bone density are free weight, body weight, and complex exercises. These exercises will recruit more muscles, improve your core strength and posture, and get you moving in more directions. Machines are good for just starting out, but you will absolutely want to be transitioning into free weights and body weight exercises as soon as possible.

(Hint, hint: A personal trainer would come in handy quite nicely during this juncture.)

Having good technique/form is crucial for every exercise and that’s where a quality trainer is crucial. Squatting has been known to be bad for knees.

I would say that’s false, squatting incorrectly is bad for your knees.

Squatting involves almost every muscle of your body, so you get a lot of bang for your buck. Here’s a few tips to improving your squat:

  • Make sure your knees do NOT go past your toes as you descend.
  • You should also make sure that your knees do NOT collapse inward. Stay back on your mid-foot/heels and keep your chest up. *A great cue for keeping your knees out is to “push your knees to the outside walls.”
  • Keep your core engaged and exhale on the way up
  • Use a chair or a bench to help assist you as you start squatting as they are safer for the knees. Here’s a video of myself demonstrating the body weight squat.

Practicing those tips at the gym, at home, or even at the work place can help improve your squat pattern. This, in turn, will develop better technique and more force transmitting through the muscles rather than the joints (preventing knee pain).

Osteoporosis is a serious issue and it’s becoming more relevant in our society. As noted, women in particular are more susceptible to this disease, especially those who have gone through menopause. Women also have a bit more of an uphill battle because it’s harder for women to develop lean muscle mass when compared to men.

That means that complex, body weight, and free weight exercises are even more crucial for women.

Make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. If you aren’t, using a supplement is a good idea until you get your diet to where it needs to be. Obviously your best bet is to get exercising right away and do not shy away from strength training – it’s one of the best medicines, after all.